Trope (literature)

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A literary trope is the use of figurative language, via word, phrase or an image, for artistic effect such as using a figure of speech.[1] Keith and Lundburg describe a trope as, "a substitution of a word or phrase by a less literal word or phrase."[2] The word trope has also come to be used for describing commonly recurring literary and rhetorical devices,[3] motifs or clichés in creative works.[4][5] Literary tropes span almost every category of writing, including poetry, television, and art. Tropes can be found in all literature.

Origins[edit]

The term trope derives from the Greek τρόπος (tropos), "turn, direction, way", derived from the verb τρέπειν (trepein), "to turn, to direct, to alter, to change".[4] Tropes and their classification were an important field in classical rhetoric. The study of tropes has been taken up again in modern criticism, especially in deconstruction.[6] Tropological criticism (not to be confused with tropological reading, a type of biblical exegesis) is the historical study of tropes, which aims to "define the dominant tropes of an epoch" and to "find those tropes in literary and non-literary texts", an interdisciplinary investigation of which Michel Foucault was an "important exemplar".[6]

In medieval writing[edit]

A specialized use is the medieval amplification of texts from the liturgy, such as in the Kyrie Eleison (Kyrie, / magnae Deus potentia, / liberator hominis, / transgressoris mandati, / eleison). The most important example of such a trope is the Quem quaeritis?, an amplification before the Introit of the Easter Sunday service and the source for liturgical drama.[3][7] This particular practice came to an end with the Tridentine Mass, the unification of the liturgy in 1570 promulgated by Pope Pius V.[6]

In Victorian writing[edit]

Weaving is a literary trope that in the works of Victorian women authors symbolized a subversive femininity as a mode of self-expression for women, who were traditionally expected to remain silent in matters of public concern.[8]

Types and examples[edit]

Rhetoricians have analyzed a variety of "twists and turns" used in poetry and literature and have provided a list of labels for these poetic devices. These include:

  • Allegory – A sustained metaphor continued through whole sentences or even through a whole discourse. For example: "The ship of state has sailed through rougher storms than the tempest of these lobbyists."
  • Antanaclasis – The stylistic trope of repeating a single word, but with a different meaning each time; antanaclasis is a common type of pun, and like other kinds of pun, it is often found in slogans.
  • Hyperbole – The use of exaggeration to create a strong impression.
  • Irony – Creating a trope through implying the opposite of the standard meaning, such as describing a bad situation as "good times".
  • Litotes – A figure of speech and form of verbal irony in which understatement is used to emphasize a point by stating a negative to further affirm a positive, often incorporating double negatives for effect.
  • Metaphor – An explanation of an object or idea through juxtaposition of disparate things with a similar characteristic, such as describing a courageous person as having a "heart of a lion".
  • Metonymy – A trope through proximity or correspondence. For example, referring to actions of the U.S. President as "actions of the White House".
  • Oxymoron – The use of two opposite situations or things in one sentence to prove a point. [9]
  • Synecdoche – Related to metonymy and metaphor, creates a play on words by referring to something with a related concept: for example, referring to the whole with the name of a part, such as "hired hands" for workers; a part with the name of the whole, such as "the law" for police officers; the general with the specific, such as "bread" for food; the specific with the general, such as "cat" for a lion; or an object with its substance, such as "bricks and mortar" for a building.
  • Catachresis – A metaphor that is or can be a stretch for an audience to catch on to. Catachreses can be subjective; some people may find a metaphor to be too much while others may find it perfectly reasonable.[2]

For a longer list, see Figure of speech: Tropes.

Kenneth Burke has called metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche and irony the "four master tropes"[10] owing to their frequency in everyday discourse.

These tropes can be used to represent common recurring themes throughout creative works, and in a modern setting relationships and character interactions. It can also be used to denote examples of common repeating figures of speech and situations.[11]

Whilst most of the various forms of phrasing described above are in common usage, most of the terms themselves are not, in particular antanaclasis, litotes, metonymy, synecdoche and catachresis.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ Miller (1990). Tropes, Parables, and Performatives. Duke University Press. p. 9. ISBN 978-0822311119.
  2. ^ a b author., Lundberg, Christian O. (Christian Oscar) (10 November 2017). The essential guide to rhetoric. ISBN 978-1-319-09419-5. OCLC 1016051800.
  3. ^ a b Cuddon, J. A.; Preston, C. E. (1998). "Trope". The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory (4 ed.). London: Penguin. p. 948. ISBN 9780140513639.
  4. ^ a b "trope", Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2009, retrieved 2009-10-16
  5. ^ "trope (revised entry)". Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. 2014.
  6. ^ a b c Childers, Joseph; Hentzi, Gary (1995). "Trope". The Columbia Dictionary of Modern Literary and Cultural Criticism. New York: Columbia UP. p. 309. ISBN 9780231072434.
  7. ^ Cuddon, J. A.; Preston, C. E. (1998). "Quem quaeritis trope". The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory (4 ed.). London: Penguin. p. 721. ISBN 9780140513639.
  8. ^ Hirsch, Marianne (1989). The Mother / Daughter Plot: Narrative, Psychoanalysis, Feminism. Indiana University Press. p. 69. ISBN 9780253115751.
  9. ^ author., Lundberg, Christian O. (Christian Oscar) (10 November 2017). The essential guide to rhetoric. ISBN 978-1-319-09419-5. OCLC 1016051800.
  10. ^ Burke, K. (1969). A grammar of motives. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  11. ^ D'Angelo, Frank J. (September 1992). "The four master tropes: Analogues of development". Rhetoric Review. 11 (1): 91–107. doi:10.1080/07350199209388989. ISSN 0735-0198.

Sources[edit]